Skin condition proves too much for Shrewsbury barman.
James Lewis, 32, worked as a barman at his brother’s pub, the Swan Inn at Castle Gates Shrewsbury.
He’d battled with eczema for many years but in August 1895 it was particularly bad and he complained to his brother Samuel, who he also lived with, that “it made him feel hot inside, and also made his head bad”. In the summer months it was particularly sore.
He tried all sorts to try and cure the problem, and in Victorian times there were no shortages of quack treatments on offer.
No doubt he would have seen an advert like this, if not this very one, for HOMOCEA soap claiming to be able to cure eczema and other conditions…
Of course other products were available.
Failing that he could use Phillips’ Celebrated Golden Wash.
James tried all sorts of creams and salves to solve the problem but ultimately nothing worked and the problem got worse
On Tuesday 6th August he told Samuel’s wife, Elizabeth, that “unless it got better it would drive him off his head, or make him cut his throat.”
She didn’t take his comment seriously.
At 9.30 that night, seemingly in good spirits and sober, he left the pub – it’s thought he was trying to catch up with a friend who’d left a little earlier.
Half and hour later he was seen at the train station on the platform by Frederick Tisdale, a temporary railway porter from Crewe Street who “bade” him “goodnight” before continuing his duties on the Wellington train.
That was the last time he was seen alive.
At 5.45 in the morning a platelayer from Ditherington, Robert Lewis, was walking to work along the Shrewsbury to Crewe line. When he got to Bull’s Bridge at Old Heath he saw a body lying face down between the sleepers and the embankment. It appears the man had rolled down the bank.
Robert called the police and PC Smout examined the scene and the body.
He found that the throat had been cut severely in two places on the left hand side, and there was a knife in the hand of the deceased.
He also found a railway ticket for Wellington dated Tuesday, torn in two, a watch and a cap.
These objects belonged to the barman James Lewis and were identified by his brother Samuel.
At the inquest the coroner commented on “the irritating and depressing effect of the disease from which deceased was suffering.”
He said that “Although there was no evidence as to how deceased got to the spot where the body was found, the jury knew the spot, and there seemed no room to doubt that Lewis had taken his own life. It would be for the jury to say whether the irritation of his sufferings had reduced him to such a depressed condition as to render him irresponsible for his act.”
The jury returned verdict of ‘’Suicide whilst temporarily insane.”
Read the full original newspaper report on the inquest below.
Wellington Journal – Saturday 10 August 1895
SUICIDE AT SHREWSBURY. Mr. Coroner Clarke held inquiry on Wednesday as to the death James Lewis (32), barman of the Swan Inn, Castle Gates, Shrewsbury, who was found with his throat cut and dead by the side of the railway at Old Heath, at 5-45 that morning.—Samuel Lewis, landlord of the Swan ln, Castle Gates, brother of deceased, deposed that deceased had been in his service as barman for two years, and resided in the house. At half-past nine on Tuesday night witness saw deceased alive for the last time. He was then leaving the vaults in order follow after a friend who bad previously left. He seemed to be in good spirits. Deceased had suffered from eczema for some years, latterly very extensively, and had complained of it.
He suffered from it worst during the summer, and had said that it made him feel hot inside, and also made his head bad. He had not, to witness’s knowledge, been a medical man, but had used some kind of salve, which a railway guard brought from Birmingham.—Elizabeth Lewis (wife the last witness), stated that deceased had lately complained very much about the eczema, and had said to her that unless it got better it would drive him off his head, or make him cut his throat.
She, however, did not think there was any likelihood him doing anything of the sort.
Witness saw deceased go out on Tuesday night, and was perfectly sober when left the house.— By the jury: Witness had recommended deceased go to a doctor, and he said would do so, but she did not think that he had gone.—Frederick Tisdale, temporary railway porter, residing Crewe Street, deposed to seeing deceased alone the platform at ten o’clock on Tuesday night. He bade witness “Goodnight” as witness passed by to go and attend to his duties at the Wellington train.
Deceased was sober.—Robert Lewis, platelayer, Ditherington. in the employ of the London and North-Western Railway, said he was going to work about 5-45 on Wednesday morning. As he got on to the Shrewsbury and Crewe line to go towards the general station, and when near Bull’s Bridge, he saw the body of deceased lying near the metals between the sleepers and the embankment. He was quite dead.
There were two pools of blood by the body and between it and a log cabin close by, as though deceased had stood by the cabin and rolled on the embankment and fallen to where he was found.
Witness saw no weapon of any kind near the body, which was clear of the rails.
He gave information to the police.—Police-constable Smout deposed visiting the spot and finding the body as described by the last witness, lying face downwards.
Witness examined the body, and found the throat was severely cut in two places on the left side.
Witness also found the knife (produced) in deceased’s hand. The small blade only was open, but both blades were covered with blood. Witness also found a railway ticket for Wellington (produced) dated Tuesday, torn in two, and other articles were found, including a watch, which was then still going, and the cap (produced).—
Deceased’s brother identified all the article’s produced as the property of deceased. There was no letter or document whatever affording any clue to deceased’s motive for, or intention, to commit the act.
The Coroner, in summing up, remarked upon the irritating and depressing effect of the disease from which deceased was suffering.
Although there was no evidence as to how deceased got the spot where the body was found, the jury knew the spot, and there seemed no room to doubt that Lewis had taken his own life.
It would be for the jury to say whether the irritation of his sufferings had reduced him such depressed condition as to render him irresponsible for his act. —The jury at once returned verdict of ‘’Suicide whilst temporarily insane.”